What Does Your Online Activity Say About You?
We’re almost a decade and a half into the age of Social Media, and it can still be tricky to navigate. One question we all should be asking ourselves is: What message is my total online persona sending to the world? Another question to ask might be: is my online presence communicating the right brand?
You may need to step back and take an objective look at your social media presence as a whole. Look at your Facebook feed, your Instagram, your blog, your Pinterest, your LinkedIn, and your Twitter feed over a couple of weeks. What kind of picture emerges?
- If a stranger browsed your social media presence, what kind of person would they think you are?
- Is there a clear sense of your personality and/or the themes and topics you discuss publicly?
- Does your online activity reflect you appropriately for your professional life?
- Would you appear to be a well-rounded person with both professional and personal interests?
- Do you seem to be interested in others and in the world? Are you starting and participating in conversations?
- Are you interesting?
- If there are people who are waiting for something from you, will your online activity make it seem like you’re not paying attention to the correct priorities?
If we have a social media presence, we are opening ourselves up to scrutiny from others.
For example, if you write lighthearted women’s fiction, you’ll want to think twice about a social media presence that consists mostly of your passionate views on social justice (although it can be a part of your feed). If your books are aimed at people in business and leadership, you’ll want to make sure your online brand communicates some seriousness and gravitas. If you’re trying to get an agent or a publisher and your online presence consists of rants and negativity, will you appear to be someone with whom people want to work?
Take a careful look. It’s worth a few moments of evaluation.
What does your online presence say about you?
[…] Our social media is often our marketing portal to our audience. Anne R. Allen has 10 tips to use social media and avoid the cesspool, Camille Franc lists 6 effective ways to brand yourself on social media, and Rachelle Gardner urges us to look at what your online activity says about you. […]
Working for a National Laboratory, and a member of the intelligence community since before 9/11, I’ve been by default parsimonious with any personal or political sharings online. Until I started leveraging SM for writing, I had accounts mainly to keep people from impersonating me–not that I’m very important, but it just seemed prudent operational security. Now my LinkedIn account remains mostly cyber-security business related, although, as you suggest, I have feeds associated with writing. Twitter and Facebook are pretty much all writing all the time, and when my website appears (in the next month, God willing), I’ll be directing traffic there as much as possible.
I recently posted a meme of an old guy saying Life is short, so spend as much time as possible arguing online with strangers. Yeah. Let’s just not do that, good people, right?
[…] What Does Your Online Activity Say About You? by Rachelle Gardner […]
[…] What does your online activity say about you? A short piece by agent Rachelle Gardner, but an important question! You may need to step back and take an objective look at your social media presence as a whole. Look at your Facebook feed, your blog, and your Twitter feed over a couple of weeks. What kind of picture emerges? […]
[…] What Does Your Online Activity Say About You? […]
[…] What Does Your Online Activity Say About You? by Rachelle Gardner […]
Great points, succinctly put 🙂
One thing I’d add is being consistent – many authors have one name for their website, then another in their blog, then yet another in their email ID – and often they don’t reflect their pen name. It’s something that was pointed out to me once – make it easy for people to find, recognise and follow you! And yes, I changed the name of my website accordingly *sigh* :D.
It’s also difficult to know how to be interesting or if it’s working! I like to follow authors who are are easy to read online as well – just brief news, reference to interesting articles (not just theirs), some chat about them and what they’re working on, a wry comment now and then. And I like to see that they support fellow authors too.
Thanks for the guidance.
Case in point, however, as I seldom pitch the book I just had published. I am thinking about changing it up in Dec. and offering a short Christmas story I’ve written in daily installments. What do you think? Has anyone ever done that?
I use facebook to communicate for my everyday conversation as in short sentences. My blog is my craft and joy of writing,a daily devotional with a photo, a scripture, favorite quotes and a homespun application each entry to keep it real often with humor.
I self-evaluate every so often. If I’m going to preach this message I need to live it.
Right or wrong, I’ve judged people by the things they “like” on Facebook: their movies, books, music, groups, and so forth. That has caused me to limit such comments on my page.
I think it just depends. There’s an author I saw in real life that Christians and writers look up to as their hero. She was as mean and beligerant towards one side of a political party as you could ever imagine. She was insulting and degrading, yet people love her books.
Also, I see lots of authors who take very bold stances on lots of mainstream issues: Rachel Held Evans, Sarah Bessey, Shauna Niequist, etc. and it doesn’t seem to hurt then.
I actually like to know where people stand, and I would prefer to read someone who took a passionate stand on a topic than would to read happy, “plastic” posts.
Thanks for sharing an informative and timely post. Striking a balance personally and professionally is key. Being encouraging of others and their pursuits is a plus too.
I would think a bunch of spam links would be a red flag too! Social media is about interacting with others, not constantly retweeting promotional links. That’s an immediate un-follow for me.
[…] on the blog, we discussed online presence, and what our social media activity tells the world about us. Today I […]
I must admit that most of my Facebook stuff is just that. Fluff and humor. I talk about my novel on my blog quite a bit, but I haven’t said much on FB, because I don’t want to appear like I’m just using that to promote myself or my story. Time to re-evaluate, maybe.
This is so true! And can go both ways. If an editor or agent is too post happy and is taking a long to get back to you, it might make one wonder.
“If an editor is waiting for you to deliver a book, and they see you Tweeting and Facebooking about pretty much everything BUT writing your book, what will they think?”
Thank you so much for this post. I am constantly amazed by the lack of personal social media awareness in this society. I have even had to hide a few friends from my feed so that I could maintain some sort of respect for them in person. Because even online, the old adage should apply: If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t type it at all.
I used to keep my posts and tweets light and fluffy. Until Benghazi. I cannot keep quiet. I’m sure I’ve made my agent and editors mad but this so much more important to me than any book.
I think about this a lot!
My heart is in writing and chasing after where God leads – yet my professional jobs aren’t always this. However, social media is really important in my field(communication).
I just had an interviewer tell me she loved my personal Facebook page. I try to have a good mix of posts for the public that will give an honest picture of my passion, skills, hobbies, etc. on FB and Twitter.
But my blog is more personal and for writing, but could be a problem professionally for those who have strong beliefs opposite of mine. I’ve resolved to keep it as is and only change things if it’s really obvious that I need to.
Great stuff to think about!
What Gabrielle said!!!!
I try to be real and transparent, both about what I’m doing and my struggles. I am far from perfect, none of us are. So What I hope people see is a woman who loves Jesus like crazy and works every day to find joy in the journey of life and to give God glory, and to be the best wife, momma, and writer she can be, even though she knows she falls short multiple times a day!
Yet, I also try to think about the things you mention, and make sure that in being real, people aren’t hurt and I don’t relay a message that I’d rather not be broadcasted.
First thing I wrote on my facebook page was “I hate social networking, wish I could hire someone to do this for me.”
LOL! I’m right there with you.
On reflection, it almost seems as if it would be worth developing a business plan, and engaging an image consultant before developing a social media presence linked to a specific book.
My publisher told me to keep my blog largely message-specific, so that potential readers could learn about the person behind the values. I was also told that I have to be right, and turn out quality posts – always. Turn off readers and they won’t come back.
I started doing this, awkwardly, and them when I felt I wasn’t measuring up I went off on a couple of tangents, and had very low readership.
When I returned to the core message, readership went up. It’s still hard, because sometimes it feels like preaching, which isn’t natural for me, but it seems like what people want to hear. I get very few comments, which worried me at first – but as long as the tracking indicates that it’s being viewed I guess it’s going ok.
It’s early going yet, and sometimes it feels like I’m walking a tightrope – what will I write next, and how can I keep this up?
Has anyone else gone through a similar process?
It took me a while to find my groove, but once I did, I seem to an easier time with blogging.
Your posts are always well written and thought provoking.
I think it’s about being real, but that can be hard, especially on facebook where everyone is putting their best foot forward. But I think people really appreciate honesty.
I love that a few friends who met me in person after meeting me online told me I was exactly what they’d pictured (well, other than Jennifer Major saying I was taller than she thought, LOL).
You come across as real online and in person. 🙂 When I read your comments on the blog we both follow, I can see your responses are genuine and well thought out. I always look for yours. 😉
Aw, thanks, Jeanne!
One of the things I like about having some of the writers from here as friends on Facebook is that I get to see posts they know their family and friends will read. It’s encouraging to see how authentic they are. You mentioned Jennifer. She’s a prime example that a Christian woman can be dedicated to God and yet a be a nut of the best kind.
Awww. Thanks. Hey, wait a minute!!
Back at you, PJ!
Haha, agreed! 😛
Hahaha! But you were/are!!
haha! Yall crack me up! 🙂 You’re right, Lindsay. It’s about keeping it real and being genuine. 🙂 P.S. I’d love to meet you someday.
Back at ya, Morgan! We young’uns gotta stick together, right? 😉
haha! Yeah, that’s right, Lindsay! lol 🙂 Hope your dogs are doing better!
I haven’t figured out the best way to formulate an online persona. I appreciate your thoughts, Rachelle. I do try to make sure when I post something on FB or Twitter that it is interesting, not mundane. I also hope that the person people read is a reflection of who I am.
Authenticity is important to me. I’m pondering your thoughts today.
You always come across authentic to me, Jeanne. You are very encouraging and supportive of others, something I noticed about you when I met you in person as well. 🙂
Formulating an online persona is best when it’s just you. Write from your heart then edit with your brain and you’ll find the right blend for your cup.
I like your recipe, Jim. 🙂 It works for me, because never mastered the art of being anyone else.
What they said. 🙂
Will you find the real me on my social media? Well, yes…and no.
Yes, because like Gabrielle and Jennifer, what you see is what you get. For better or worse, I don’t know how to be anyone else, unless I’m writing that person as a character in a book.
No, because I try to leave the drama off it. It’s one thing to be honest about trials, but people want to read how I overcame them, not complaints while going through them.
Well said , Ann. I refuse to go public with anything negative, simply because it’s so stupid in this age of viral communication!!!
Careful, yes. Contrived, work hard against this.
This question opens up a psychologocial can of worms. We all wish to be seen a certain way and many of us throw pictures on social media or make statements in light of how we want to be seen. And some of us can be really poor judges of how we’re coming across. This is where good & honest friends can help.
I’ve found there are times I begin to care too much about how I’m coming across, tiptoeing when maybe I really should be stomping. Curse of the introspective soul.
I will say I tend to stay offline on my ‘why don’t I go eat worms’ days.
I am so glad you wrote this. I have shared it on my FB page and will use it as my guideline as I create my online presence.
Thanks for the reminder to evaluate my online persona. While I need to strengthen my online presence, at least I don’t have any negative information out there.
While I was widowed, I emailed an old high school classmate, who noticed the link to my blog after my signature. He began reading everything he could about me. I guess he liked what he saw because he later married me. 🙂
Roxanne, this is so sweet. Love it!
Now that puts a new spin on “You Got Mail.” There’s a book–“Mr. Right is Now Following You.” 🙂
That is so sweet!!
Thanks for your comments. Love your wit, P.J.!
I tell my heart-warming, romantic story on Sandra Orchard’s blog:
(Sorry. I don’t know how to make this a hot link here.)
I’ve been consistently aware of this need to be careful of what I say, how I say it, and when I post for the exact reasons you listed. Thanks for the gentle reminder to press on with this mindset. My guiding principle is usually, “Will this cause someone to stumble or be mislead about my character?”
Good morning –
I think you raise an important point that anyone with social media should consider. I also agree partly with Gabrielle Meyer’s statement above, about matching home life and being real. That apologizing after a wrong is more valuable than being perfect.
I try to keep facebook positive. It is a shame that it is too easy to see both the professional page as well as the personal. So fb is where I show my inner comedian. Twitter I tend to post only news articles, and I think I need to liven that up a bit. On my site, I feel that I show interest in others. In fact on my to-do list is to make a greater effort to take the “I” out of my blog, because I’m boring anyway. 😉
My greatest concern is seeming too perfect, which is what Gabrielle was speaking of. I recently posted a picture of my husband and I on my private page and it received a wave of attention. Some people even talked about how we were there favorite couple! I thought, oh goodness! If you only knew what a horrible wife I can be! It made me think of the quote, “do not compare your behind the scenes to others highlight reel”.
Though that last is a personal matter, it is so easily inter-grained.
I understand the “not wanting to appear too perfect” thinking. When I travel and post photos on FB, I later feel bad about it because not everyone can afford to go to France, Hawaii, etc. What they don’t realize is that I seldom pay for airfare (use frequent flier miles) and we rent apartments to cut the cost. Still, I feel like I come across the wrong way by sharing our fun.
My “public” life is changing. Currently, I use social media for different segments of my life.
My personal FB page is locked down to those I know well, either in person or in the virtual world. I’m not selling anything on my personal FB page.
On my blog, I write about the things I love–home, garden and travel. It’s free to read and I don’t cover controversial topics there. I don’t have ads on my blog.
So far, my freelance writing has been sold to a few travel and garden companies/organizations and I don’t pitch my freelance services on Twitter, but I post links to what I’ve written.
That said…I’ve now written my first novel and began querying in the last few weeks. Yesterday, I received a request for a full. I realize that if my women’s fiction is published, I will be using social media for promotion.
Your points are something that I’ve thought about since I follow agents on Twitter and I do pay attention to how often they tweet and the subject matter.
Thanks for another thought-provoking post.
Congratulations regarding your book!
Thank you. Fingers crossed.
Sounds like you’ve thought this through. Congrats on the request for a full!
My mom commented on my blog post about the Bolivian roads. If my mommy is watching what I say, and I’m not grounded, then I’m fine with it!
I agree with what Gabrielle said, my public image should match my private.
Of course, I posted a picture on FB yesterday that drew a few comments about my mental state, but it was because I was using chemicals and was a bit looped. It was a picture of me wearing a mask and safety glasses and it mentioned something about if this is what I was wearing, I shouldn’t be querying.
Simple, light hearted fun. Nothing I wouldn’t show my Mom. Although my kids might have an issue. Actually, with me as their mother, they probably have a few…
Anyway, my all-encompassing theory is this: If I can’t show it to my mom and Jesus, then don’t say or do it. Or like I told myself after the 11th customs person got through with me (and everyone else) before I boarded a flight leaving a certain South American country, “If I have nothing to hide, then I have nothing to hide.”
Yep yep. My mother watches everything too. If I’m out of line, the phone will ring for sure. She always starts the same way: “Pastor Casselman…”
Interesting. When I want to hide something from my wife and children I blog about it.
Lately, my on-line presence would mostly tell people I’ve been too busy to spend much time on-line.
I haven’t run out of ideas to blog about, nor the desire to blog. I love the on-line interaction. Just having trouble, lately, making time for it…
Same here, Joe. I spend any online time looking at everyone else’s stuff. Since I limit my time, there’s no time for posting. Oh well, people usually don’t un-subscribe to a blog because of inactivity. When we get the time…right? 🙂
I was going to mention the lack of posts from certain Miscreants, but I should thank you, instead, for posting for me while I was in Bolivia. So thank you both!
Feel free to come over and visit, and take a ride with the Death-Cam.
I have no idea what my social media outreach says about me. But at the moment SuzyQ4U is working with me to fine tune my twittering and facebook. Who knew some automatic posts dilute your message?
Believe it or not, I think my social media presence captures me pretty accurately. I was going to say that I probably tweet 95 percent about writing and that writing doesn’t take up 95 percent of my life. But then I thought about it, and it probably does. For better or for worse. 🙂
Hopefully, my online presence tells people that I’m interested in them and am always willing to listen and, if possible, share any insight or advice they request.
As a modern pastor, Facebook is invaluable to help me keep up with people in my church. Their posts give me an opportunity to interact with them on a daily basis. I spend time in prayer for those who convey a need and try to give encouragement if possible.
My only indulgence online is this blog. I’m not a pastor here, just another writer. Ah, a tiny oasis of drama free interaction. For that, I’m thankful.
To me, most pastors have to leap tall buildings and dodge pah-lenty of bullets. So this is a nice place to ditch the cape and stop being Superman, isn’t it?
PJ, there seems to be a high regard for you and your thoughts here, you’re one of the anchors that many of us turn to for your opinion. Drama-free? Yes, but not free of the respect you have earned by just being “Jim”.
That I love my followers…because I really do. Their encouragement keeps writing just one more post.
Fully agree! Their encouragement is priceless 🙂
Good question, Rachelle, and a reminder that when we are on Internet we open ourselves up to the scrutiny of others. When I look at you, I’m amazed by the amount of energy and the torrent of stimulating thoughts you bring to Internet! You have a very broad mind and varied interests and you certainly know how to stimulate your readers with your blog.
But there is one question you ask that I don’t entirely agree with: you say and I quote “If an editor is waiting for you to deliver a book, and they see you Tweeting and Facebooking about pretty much everything BUT writing your book, what will they think?”
Indeed, what will that editor think? You seem to imply (but perhaps I misunderstood you?) that for a writer it is wrong not to tweet and Facebook about his/her book. Now, I do have an FB Author Page and I occasionally tweet about my books, but I’ve learned several things about talking about one’s own work and promoting it:
(1) never ever make a direct sales pitch (it backfires) and
(2) don’t tweet about it too often, at best try to get others to tweet for you (that’s the only sales tweet that works).
Also another thing: I find that writers who maintain blogs excessively focused on their own work are incredibly boring. I’ll confess something here: I look at their blogs once and never come back to them. What you need to do on blogs is either to follow the Joe Konrath model and your own, i.e. provide content that is useful to your readers because you are actually giving them guidance (in both your cases, your readers are writers) or you try to reach beyond writers (my case: I blog about books and publishing but I also try to go beyond those topics and include art and current events, particularly social issues like, most recently, modern day slavery).
Why do I do that? Because as a person (I mean human being) and responsible citizen, I’m genuinely interested in those issues and I (immodestly!) believe I have something to add to the conversation (after all, I’m an economist). And I also hope that I attract to my blog people who are likewise interested in these issues – issues I also happen to address in my books, albeit in a fictional form of course. So what I try to do is reach out to readers who are not necessarily writers!
Whether that strategy works or not, only time will tell. If it is a “strategy”, after all, I really can’t behave differently on Internet because that’s who I really am.I started blogging 2 years ago and it’s still probably too soon to draw conclusions…
I felt that Rachelle meant if an editor looks at your fb and/or twitter and you do not appear focused, and all the while a deadline is looming, that you are distracted.
Ex: Your deadline is in two days, you’ve communicated you are running behind. But on fb/twitter you are talking about working on your new idea for a next book, or going on a weekend excursion to ‘get away from it all’.
Though, I could be wrong. That was my interpretation.
I’ve always believed my public image should match my private. I like that people know that what they see is what they get with me. If they came into my house on a whim, they’d see me treating my children and husband no differently at home as at church. Because I live in a small town, I know people are always watching – which is also the case on Facebook, Twitter and my blog. If I hope to minister, then I need to live what I believe.
I’m not perfect (by any means), but sometimes losing my cool, and then apologizing for it, is more powerful than doing everything right, all the time. I remember a few years ago when my husband left for a two week mission trip to Africa and I had been up since 2:30 in the morning, I went to the grocery store later that day and lost my cool on clerk. It was quite a bit out of character for me, so I tried to blame it on the highly emotional day, but that only lasted for the next three aisles. My conscience got the better of me and I sought that poor woman out and apologized. She probably thought I was a bit “touched,” but everytime I’ve seen her since then, she always offers me the nicest smile – and I know it wouldn’t be there had I not gone back to say I was sorry.
Whether we like it or not, people are always watching. Thank God He gave us the Fruit of Self-Control – learning how to bear that fruit is the hard part, but it can be done.
A very powerful anecdote to illustrate the parable of the shepherd and the lost sheep – that you for writing it, for sharing that lovely bit of ministry.
Amen, sistah. (Am I allowed to say that on here?) 😉
🙂 I think so.
Extremely, totally, nail-on-the-head, spot on!
It’s how we act in the grocery store line up that tells people who we are, not the rest of it.
We can be all that and a bag of chips online, but if we lose it and don’t apologize to a normal person, what’s the point?
Gabrielle, I’m with you. I don’t want to present a facade in public and be a completely different person at home. I like your genuine-ness with the lady at the store and in your desire to be authentic.
You are exactly the person I thought you were before meeting you (and only knowing you online). Love that about you!!
Thank you, Lindsay – you are too! Rooming with someone (twice!) is a great way to make or break a friendship – and it has endured me to you for life. 🙂
I think you know how I feel about this matter. 😉
Thank you for the reminder of our need to be genuine, Gabrielle.
Excellent points. I’ve been working the Social Media Trifecta (Facebook, Twitter, Blog) for a couple years now, and it’s a slow, but evolving process.
I recently lost a few followers on my Twitter account – which was just after election night, when I fell into a vortex of Tweeting Mania.
This post is a reminder to us all to stay on track, and to be engaging, without being overbearing.
It’s a very important question, because the persona we create can end up holding us hostage. I know a number of people whose hamster fell of the wheel trying to keep up with their self-made Facebook doppelganger.
I’ve limited my activity to my blog (though I will make rare comments on our ‘family FB account).
Whether I’m interesting, well-rounded or whatever – that’s for others to decide. I write with the thought that if people buy the book they might want to know what’s important, interesting, or funny to me – and that’s the content.
I sure won’t try to be interesting – that’s the kiss of death. Better to be an honest drudge than a pretentious fop.
An honest drudge – that’s the key. Be absolutely honest, and never succumb to the temptation to stylize your online presence into the life you wish you’d had.
That edifice has a lovely door and its antechamber is well-lit, but its rooms afford no exit.
Well said, Andrew. I tried being a “writer” once. The “writer’s” work sounded fake, because I was trying to write to please the English professors in my head. They’ve been sent to that edifice and I only shout down the stairs to ask if it’s lie, lay or laid.
Trying to be anything we’re not IS the kiss of death. It took me a long time to figure that out. Just being me seems to be sufficient for me in life, and wherever my name appears on the web.
Great advice, Rachelle! I just sort of did an evaluation of my brand and how it is working with my social media.
I’ve decided to really amp up my blog and focus less on Facebook, Twitter, etc. (though I am still regularly present on them).
I think it’s just narrowing down to what works for you because navigating social media can be daunting and trying to work with a brand can be as equally intimidating.
I, for one, need to focus on one thing at a time to be most productive. That’s what I’m doing with my blog (www.pensonaworldmap.com) right now. It’s a work-in-progress. 🙂
Do you ever have the thought that if it ever becomes something other than a work-in-progress, you’re about to die of complacency? I’m starting to feel that.
Yep, I understand exactly what you’re saying. There will always be room for improvement and there should be. For my blog though, I want to get to a place that is working well. I will always keep tweaking and improving in small ways because all this big overhaul I’ve been doing is overwhelming. 🙂
At the same time though, progress is exciting and keeps us on our toes, so we will not become complacent.
Your blog is great, Morgan. You do a great job of being you.
Thanks so much, Jennifer! 🙂
I’m glad you are back and safe from your trip. And P.S. I’d love, love for you to be one of my guest bloggers on a Friday! It’s just a short travel blog post (300 words or less) and it includes two or three pictures. I’d love to hear a bit about Bolivia and I’ll give a shout out for your blog too. What do you think? 🙂 ttyl
I would love to!! Thanks! Gracias!
Great! You find out instructions at the link below.
Anyone else who would like to share a short travel story on my blog and gain a shoutout for their blog/website or book release, etc. please go to the link above to find out more info. I’d love to hear from you.
Have a great day everyone! 🙂
I just recently signed up for Facebook, so my online presence says next to nothing about me. Thanks for the tip on appearing to be well rounded both professionally and personally.